Airport Business

DEC 2017 - JAN 2018

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GRANTS December 2017/January 2018 airportbusiness 13 Great Bend Fights to Keep Its Business Model Great Bend Municipal Airport sees its future challenged after the FAA didn't recognize the need for its current runway length. Originally a B-29 training base during World War II, the airport has grown into a prime stop for general and business aviation fueling. Because of its location in central Kansas, the airport has become a growing mid-America fuel stop for jet aircraft. But the airport's business model is in danger after the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) opted to recognize GBD's runway at 5,500 feet, which is well short of its current length of 7,851 feet. "Based on the economics and the nature of wanting to keep this an economically viable enter- prise for the city," said Martin Miller, manager of GBD. "We thought at 5,500 feet we're going to lose our economic viability and be reduced to a length that doesn't permit the kind of traffic we're getting." GBD is seeking $495,000 in funding from the Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT) towards a $550,000 rehabilitation of the 2,300 feet of runway omitted from the FAA's funding. KDOT awards the grants in January and Miller said it's highly competitive, with the agency historically getting $30 million requests despite only having $5 million to allot statewide. The runway — which is asphalt on top of World War II era concrete — had its last mill overlay in 2003, Miller said. When that project took place, he said the FAA only participated to 6,000 feet. After years of repairs and other work to keep them going, the airport needs to replace the original concrete. "We've had Kansas DOT aviation support for that mill overlay back in 2003," he said. "This time their metric comes back at 5,500 feet based on the traffic they're tracking and we were unable to buy more time and justify with our traffic coming in satisfy the requirements to go longer on this cycle and use a 'let's get this done now' type of project for the FAA." If they don't get the grant from KDOT, Miller said they're prepared to self-fund a smaller reha- bilitation, "It would be a thinner overlay basically," he said. "We'll still make it work." The FAA will pay 90 percent of the costs for the 5,500 portion of the runway. Miller said they're glad to have funding, but the loss of traffic and revenues from fuel sales and collateral benefits of traffic com- ing in has them pursuing the option rehabilitating the northern 2,351 feet alongside the FAA project. According comments Miller got from a Hawker pilot, even with all of the pavement the airport has now, there will be times when it's too short. Reducing the length will put Great Bend out of the preferred airports for quick turns for light jets. "With the facilities you have and the invest- ment made to provide a prime location for coast to coast quick turns, it would be a shame to reduce the available runway length," the statement reads. Another pilot of a Cessna Citation II told Miller he refuels at GBD six to 10 times per year and will even stop when it was possible to make it back home because of the great job the FBO does servic- ing the aircraft. However, he mentioned that when fueling to max gross weight, when density altitudes exceed 4,000 feet, he would no longer be able to utilize the airport with shorter runways. "We've been working on this for a number of years," Miller said. "The underlying pavement is getting old and we've had a lot of issues so we final- ly got our place in line for runway replacement." The primary economics of the airport right now are fuel flow and the ramps. The type of traffic that constitutes about 70 percent of the fuel sales is tran- sient cross country jet traffic. "We see a lot of them because of online fuel price reporting and because of our location. So you've got price, location and runway length being the three driving factors of our economics. We'll see cross county traffic like citations and Lears, a challenger will come in here. Great Bend has an elevation of 1,887 feet. A short runway, creates safety concerns with density altitudes above 4,000. G reat Bend Municipal Airport (GBD) in Great Bend, Kansas, has seen plenty of changes since its founding. By Joe Petrie Great Bend's business model is in danger after the Federal Aviation Administration opted to recognize GBD's runway at 5,500 feet, which is well short of its current length of 7,851 feet.

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